Expanded bike path near ambulance entrance will lead to accidents, Montreal hospital says

·2 min read
Two ambulances idle in the bike path on Viger Avenue, outside of the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM) hospital. (Sharon Yonan-Renolds/CBC - image credit)
Two ambulances idle in the bike path on Viger Avenue, outside of the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM) hospital. (Sharon Yonan-Renolds/CBC - image credit)

A major hospital is butting heads with the city of Montreal over its plans to expand a bicycle path right outside the ambulance entrance.

The Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM) moved to its current location in downtown Montreal in 2017. According to the hospital's president, Danielle Fleury, it's been working to address the bike path on Viger Avenue ever since.

"It's not safe to have a bike path right there, when the ambulance entrances are so close," Fleury said.

The bike path cuts across the entrance to the ambulance entrance, where trucks are normally coming and going, often at high speeds as they rush to and from emergencies.

Sharon Yonan-Renold/CBC
Sharon Yonan-Renold/CBC

Other times, Fleury said ambulances have to use the bike path as a waiting area, sometimes for an hour at a time, forcing cyclists to go around them and into traffic.

There isn't too much bike traffic there yet, so it hasn't been a problem, but plans to significantly develop the bike path are raising alarms.

The city plans to expand the path and to integrate it into the Réseau Express Vélo (REV) — a major network of high-capacity bike paths, likened to a highway for cyclists.

That could bring more people, moving at higher speeds — and, Fleury fears, accidents.

Fleury underlined that the hospital isn't against having a bike path, or the REV itself, going nearby. The problem, she said, is the location.

"What we are asking the city is, yes, to have a bike path, but not where it is and where they want to put it," she said.

Sharon Yonan-Renolds
Sharon Yonan-Renolds

Speaking to CBC News, Robert Beaudry, the executive committee member responsible for urban planning, confirmed the plan to expand the path.

He said the bike lane will be widened and there will be barriers to separate it from cars. Plans also include separate reserved spaces for the ambulances, he said.

"We want to talk with them to find the solution," he said.

But Fleury said the city's proposal isn't a solution at all, because the plan does not address the concerns at the entrance: that ambulances may accidentally hit cyclists.

"There is still a way to get the ambulances in and out. It will be open [from barriers]," she said.

Fleury said she hopes the city is open to the hospital's concerns and will try to understand the problem from its point of view.

"We're open to talk about it," she said, "but for that, we need both sides."

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